Attracting students by inbound marketing is an important tool for colleges and universities. Leads are typically generated from an advertisement on a third party website, or directly from the provider's website. This article looks at increasing student numbers by integrating two best-of-breed systems to provide superior web content and efficiently process leads. 

Higher education student "customers" have unique needs but this does not mean enterprise best-of-breed systems like Sitecore and Salesforce cannot be used to attract, convert and retain them. In fact, the collective features of these systems far exceed those of purpose-built educational applications. The challenge is to apply the useful features to students and this requires a little thought plus clever integration software like S4S. After this, you will have a superior solution! 

First, let's look at what an online student might like to see. Foremost, they need a personal space that "knows" their unique needs. This portal, accessible only by authentication, would be heavily personalized based on their typical differentiators:

  • Details about enrolled courses and programs
    • Associated academic contacts
    • Course marks to date
    • Other course info as required 
  • Study location
    • On-campus
    • Off-campus
  • Employment status
    • Unemployed
    • Part-time
    • Full-time 
    • Work-study
  • Student disposition
    • Needs academic help
    • Needs financial help
    • Has other needs
  • Personal information
    • Contact details
    • Financial status
    • Disclosed disabilities
  • Promotions and events that match the student's profile 

Personalization like this is where Sitecore reigns supreme. In fact, I've lost count of the ways you can explicitly and implicitly personalize a Sitecore website, suffice to say, it's amazing. It's also very easy to create Sitecore portal pages and being an enterprise system, it can handle that special day when 250,000 students arrive on the website to check their results (or a social media registration campaign is wildly successful!).

The next hurdle is where is this data kept? Clearly, Salesforce is a leading candidate, for more reasons than ways Sitecore can personalize. The CRM is where you store everything about your students, either in native Salesforce or in a custom education application available from the AppExchange.

The final piece is S4S, the glue that integrates and adds even more out-of-the-box features:

  • Security Connector
    • Students can log in to the Sitecore portal if their entered credentials match those in their Salesforce record
  • Forms Mapping Wizard
    • Sitecore admins can create web forms and map them to Salesforce objects like leads
  • Sitecore Analytics in Salesforce
    • Surfacing analytics lets Salesforce users see each students activity in the portal
    • View data like visit time/dates, pages visited, downloads, goals seen, etc.  
  • Drive Sitecore personalization from Salesforce
    • Salesforce users can completely control the portal content shown to students, all from their Salesforce record

S4S transparently transacts Salesforce data in real time through a single Salesforce user license. Of these features, the most powerful is surfacing Sitecore analytics in Salesforce. This presents the sales/recruitment team with an insight into the prospects website behavior before and after they submit a lead form, across multiple visits. The level of engagement is clearly visible in the CRM, plus any secondary interests they may have. Knowing the web activity of the prospect makes it very easy to prepare for sales calls and this translates to higher conversion rates.   

But I've left the best to last. By simply selecting a new role from a drop-down list in an individual's Salesforce record, Sitecore can reveal completely different Sitecore portal pages for academic staff, support staff, remote staff and/or alumni. These pages contain content specific to match each role and can be personalized from Salesforce similar to the student portal. Academic staff, for example, could access the "Academics Only" portal pages that surfaces Salesforce data, like a list of students that belong to the courses the academic runs. Optionally, the academic could have the ability to create, read, update or delete these records, pending the academics editing status in their own Salesforce record.

This story is less than half told. To learn more about how to add value to your business in this way please contact us for more information